In light of TU hosting investigative journalist Eric Schlosser for the Presidential Lecture Series March 15, the university screened “The Bomb,” a film he co-produced.
Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser is best known for his books “Fast Food Nation” and “Command and Control.” “The Bomb” is based on the latter. It explores the terrifying destructive power of nuclear weapons while educating the audience with facts many don’t often hear. TU held a showing in the Meinig Recital Hall on the Monday evening preceding his lecture.
The film itself is quite a multimedia experience. There is no dialogue, no spoken word, save for old newsreels and news broadcast transcripts. An electronic group named The Acid wrote and performed the entire soundtrack. Their melodies are at once both haunting and enticing. The upbeat yet edgy bass constantly makes the viewer wonder what will happen next. I went to the screening with a friend, and he reported that several times, he felt so spooked by the tunes that he had to briefly look away from the screen.
The film opens with scenes of armies marching in formation in countries like China, North Korea and Russia. Nuclear missiles, carried by military vehicles, trail right behind the soldiers. The Acid’s haunting, pulsing chimes add some attitude to this part, daring the audience to acknowledge that in world powers’ pursuit of nuclear superiority, they came to worship these weapons like gods without taking care to fully understand them.
Next, the audience sees file footage of missile launches in various countries gone wrong, including explosions on the launch pad and in mid-air. In turn, “The Bomb” shows how the United States tested its nukes ever since the first explosion in July 1945 during The Manhattan Project. Entire fake towns were built to model how buildings would stand up to shockwaves. Scientists used farm animals to approximate the effects of radiation on humans. The grand culmination of this segment? Repeated slow motion footage of various atomic bomb blasts throughout the years. We watch, in painful detail, as the shacks are destroyed, trees crack in half, shockwaves rush over land or through water. Of course, a vast amount of mushroom clouds also makes the final cut.
“The Bomb” also profiles Hiroshima and Nagasaki with footage of what the cities looked like after the United States dropped the bombs, the breadth of injuries inflicted upon the Japanese people, and US newsreels proclaiming how good it would be to finally take ultimate victory from the Japanese.
At the conclusion of the film, white script on black screens tell the audience the film’s shocking information: the number of nuclear weapons in the world is increasing every year. They have incredible destructive power and have several times, due to operator or technological error, almost gone off or been dropped by the United States on its own people. Schlosser wrote in his book, “Command and Control,” that for the incredible power these weapons have, it is astounding that we have such a lack of discussion or debate on the topic. One technical glitch at a missile silo or one error on the part of an air force operator could inadvertently launch one of these missiles. And once that happens, there is no way to bring that missile back.
Thus, “The Bomb” is both a haunting, artistic piece and a startling, eerie call to action. In a creative way, it tells viewers that something must change in the rhetoric surrounding nuclear weapons and more people must educate themselves on the topic. Only then will nations make moves towards rolling back mankind’s global arsenal of the perfect killing machines.